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  1. 13 points
    And I can confirm that Twangster is not a robot. He is a nice human.
  2. 12 points
    Photo intensive post coming up. As much as I try by dumping picture after picture into this blog there are no words or mere photos that can adequately capture the beauty and how you feel when experiencing Alaska live. This will serve as my feeble attempt because it was a pretty incredible morning. Just understand these photos don't do it justice. I had a prime spot at the very front of the bow as we approached Dawes glacier. I hardly noticed the rain. But it was time to let someone else have a turn. Sharing is caring. I made my way through the crowd and grabbed a shot of the glacier including my new best friends. I went back under the cover of deck 4 to get out of the rain so I could change to a different lens. There were more 'growlers' as the senior officer on the helipad called them when the chucks of ice (glacier) are a certain size. The blue color comes from hundreds of feet of ice compressing and squeezing the oxygen out of the ice. With the sun now coming and going it dramatically changed the colors of the glacier, growlers and cliff walls of Endicott Arm. Here two different arms of this glacier meet. Where the glacier has been rubbing down the wall of the rock face it grinds off pieces of rock that form the dark strips that can be seen on top of the glacier. Everywhere I turned there was something that caught my eye. We had reached our closest approach to the glacier at approximately 1 mile. From here the Captain began to slowly turn the ship in a clockwise circle. There isn't a bad spot to be, except maybe in the casino, the pub or a restroom. From here I ventured up to deck 12. A polar bear had emerged on the ship roaming around with the ship photographers. With the first 90° of a turn complete the ship was sideways across Endicott Arm and the views in direction we had come from was pretty impressive. As impressive as the glacier may be, I was equally impressed with the cliff faces of the rock walls of Endicott Arm surrounding the ship. It was truly awe inspiring. The deck 12 sun deck above the Sky Bar was a popular spot for a quick selfie. With that it was time to leave. We began our departure back down into Endicott Arm.
  3. 12 points
    Day 3 - Juneau We had a noon arrival scheduled so we spent the morning sailing up the channel towards Juneau enjoying rain wrapped mountains on both sides of the ship. The temperature in the mid-50s wasn't too bad but the light rain made it feel colder than it was. We joined a number of ships already in port including Radiance of the Seas and a Silverseas ship (Silver Spirit) at the main pier with a Seabourne ship at anchor (tendering). A Princess ship was in port. Our excursion would depart shortly after the ship's arrival in Juneau so we visited the Windjammer when they opened at 11am then got ready to depart as soon as we were given the all clear. Today we would be doing a two part excursion. The first part was whale watching by boat followed by a short hike in the rainforest to Mendenhall Glacier. We boarded a bus for a 20 minute ride to Auke Bay. Here we boarded the Navigator! No, not the Navigator of the Seas, but a small watching watching boat named Navigator. Before leaving the marina area we were treated to dozens or Bald Eagles sitting, flying, fishing and just hanging out all around us. Our guide tells us a lot of people get this next bird confused with something else but it is still a Bald Eagle, just a juvenile bird who will get it's white head after a few seasons. Captain Jen and our guide Jamie took us out away from land where we saw more Eagles. It didn't take long before Captain Jen spotted the first whale. This is apparently Sasha. Each whale has distinctive markings on their fluke and the boat carries a book with pictures of each fluke they use to identify them. Both our guide and Captain spend the winters in Hawaii and summer in Alaska following the whales. They breed and reproduce near Hawaii then migrate to Alaska each summer to feed. We zoomed off on a 20 minute boat ride to another area, listening to radio chatter from various other whale watching boats. In this next area the water is hundreds of feet deep and whales swim right next to the shore where it isn't shallow. The mountains rise hundreds of feet above us so you can imagine the steep, shear cliff walls plunging down underwater into the depths. There was a group of several whales swimming with each other, various spouts of water every time they came up for air. There must have been six or seven in close proximity. Possibly some juvenile whales and their family on their first trip to Alaska. There are many types of whale watching boats. This next one was similar to the size of boat I took last year. I spotted several Royal Caribbean jackets from the logo shop on board Explorer on this particular boat. It was likely another RC excursion. With only a dozen on our small boat it made for better viewing oportinities and being smaller and more agile Captain Jen was able to quickly maneuver us for the best photo angles.
  4. 11 points
    My son was exhausted from his early flight and coming from the East coast the 3 hour difference caught up to him so he went to bed. I saw the makings of a sunset through the overcast and found the deck 4 outer decks the only place to catch it. It was very cool and we had a strong wind so they closed the upper decks and helipad access. I grabbed this photo of the pool deck as I sought places to capture the sunset. Since I have the drink package my route between photo locations somehow included a bar along the path. Here is the Promenade as I made my way back down to deck 4. I am trying a new camera this cruise and decided to push the limits a bit to see what I could away with. This is a 1/3 second shutter speed trying to create some motion blur in the waves while hoping for a clear and steady picture of the ship. I think it turned out pretty good. Same trick looking aft. As the sun continued to set there were some lovely pastel colors presented in the mountains surrounding us on both sides of this passage between Canada to our North and America to our South. Combined with varying levels of cloud coverage it was very pretty. This was shortly after 9pm. Back inside I happened across "The Tavern" in the Boleros area on other ships. This is kind of a sports bar at times but also used for things like Karaoke. To the pub for a beer and some pub music. I ventured back outside and again did some experimenting with my camera. By this point the moon was out and combined with gaps in the cloud coverage it created some dramatic scenes. I ran into the @cookingyo s at the Schooner Bar and sat with them for a while. It was getting late and time for bed so I hopped in an elevator and made my way back to my cabin. Saturday already. Day one complete.
  5. 11 points
    It is finally embarkation day. We started off at Biscuit Bitch a block over from the Moore Inn. I'm a simple gal so I got a Buttered Up Biscuit with maple peanut butter. It was pretty filling. We took an Uber to the cruise port. I had a code for a free first ride but didn't see anywhere to add the code. The ride was $10 plus tip. We chose to walk from the drop off point to the ship. It wasn't far. We checked out the Windjammer for lunch. We then went to the lava flow meet up where the bartender clearly did not anticipate making so many of the frozen Kraken drinks. He suspected correctly that a Caribbean cruiser was to blame. After muster we went to the spa raffle. Unfortunately a lot of people showed up and we did not win any prizes. The sail away party was a good time where we got to meet more group cruisers. It was fun today to see all the familiar shirts around the ship. It makes it feel like you have many friends. We got a little taste of the entertainment at the comedian's show. On the way out of the theater we stopped to listen to the piano player and stayed to see if our skills at music trivia were up to par. I should have jumped on a team. I knew the "hard one". It has been a other exhausting day. Thank goodness for a sea day tomorrow.
  6. 10 points
    After walking back to the hotel I had just under an hour to prepare for the first Royal Caribbean Blog Alaska Group Cruise event - a 5pm meet up that included pizza. Here I met several familiar online names and avatars but was able to put real names and faces to them.
  7. 10 points
    Chihuly Garden and Glass I booked this as a combo with the Space Needle online the day before. It had me select a time for the Space Needle but Chihuly was available to walk in anytime. During the purchasing process it appeared Chihuly by itself was sold out but it was available to book as a combo for $44 plus tax. The two are located right next to each other. I had printed my ticket at home and it was a simple matter of following the signs and going straight to have it scanned without needing to stop at any ticket office. I took a lot of photos and it's been hard to narrow it down. It's getting late and I'm tired so I just going to dump the photos in this post and give it more thought another day. Ticket scanned you are quickly presented with your first exhibit. There are eight interior areas and then the outdoor gardens. This next section is the "Sea Room". There is the main piece in the center with smaller pieces around the outside of the room, each with intricate details. This leads to a whimsical corridor with a number of glass pieces overhead. There were hundreds of pieces each with intricate detail. The next room was incredible. What struck me was the detail in all aspects of every piece. This leads to the boat room with two boats filled with more pieces. Next up is the Chandelier Room. Following this is the Macchia Forest. Through the indoor sections it was time to move outdoors. There is a "Glass House" that was closed on this day for a private event. It's been hard to narrow down the 200 photos to these which is already more than I should have added. It's just hard to capture and present it trying to do it justice without going overboard with photos.
  8. 9 points
    I've been hanging out in the Viking Crown Lounge on this whale watching excursion. I just saw this awesome Orca to starboard. It was swimming just under the surface yet I could see it's whole body. Just Wow. The pool deck is operating in normal mode, pools open (and heated), bars open, joggers jogging, hot tubs being enjoyed. I'm sitting right above the outdoor TV screen so I've got the eyes of many on deck 11 staring straight at me. Very flat seas today, it hardly feels like we are moving. I could take this same picture on a sea day for any Caribbean cruise and it would be mostly the same - minus the whales. An amazing sea day plus I'm all caught up on this blog. Phew. Time for a Kraken and something. (ok, maybe another one...)
  9. 9 points
    Back in Stephen's Passage it was time for the Royal Caribbean Blog Group Cruise Photo! Of course it was... raining. Fortunately it didn't last long and we were able to get some of the group who ventured out for the photo. For some reason Matt asked me to take the photo. This is the point we drop off our pilot, at the same place we picked him up a few days ago. Still no chair hogs. Here is our route so far: I'm writing this from the Viking Crown Lounge on day 6 but I've been distracted. There have been dozens of whales passing on both sides. An Orca just did a big jump right beside the ship creating a massive splash when it landed. Just Wow.
  10. 9 points
    Here are some more photos as we made our way down Endicott Arm.
  11. 9 points
    Once we left the Northern part of the inlet where it is more narrow the winds settled down and with sunset approaching there was some magnificent scenery unfolding. As we sailed South I saw many glaciers in the distance including this hanging glacier as I sat in the Schooner Bar having a drink. 9:37pm With that spotted it was time to head up, grab my good camera and venture outside on deck 12. 11pm The sun had set officially around 10pm but it hung around just over the horizon for a while creating a dramatic sky. 11:01pm As we continued the angle of the sun caused it to fill this gap between peaks with orange light that made it look like lava filling the valley between mountains. 11:07pm The "lava flow" effect was getting bigger, or maybe the Kraken lava flows were catching up to me. 11:10pm The effect lasted a few more minutes before disappearing illustrating how sometimes you just need to be lucky and in the right place at the right time. Despite being well past 'sunset' there was still a lot of light in the sky. 11:22pm 11:24pm 11:30pm 11:41pm 12:11am With that it was time for bed. The glacier arrival was scheduled for 7am so I needed to get to bed.
  12. 9 points
    Day 3 - Juneau, continued Part 2 - Mendenhall Glacier Part two of our tour brings us to a hike in the forest to the Mendenhall Glacier. You can drive closer but part of our Photo Safari included this 1 mile hike. Southeast Alaska has is home to some rain forests and is very lush. Our first peak at the glacier comes just before reaching the official visitors center. There is another hike you can take to the waterfall but that wasn't part of our plan today. Here is the visitors center. From here it is a short walk down to the lake. There are plenty of wildflowers in this area just to attest to how lush this part of Alaska is. There are small nature walks you can take. Part of this is an elevated boardwalk where you can sometimes catch a bear eating Salmon when they are running later in the summer. Here is the view of such a stream from the boardwalk. No bears today but our guide pointed out evidence of recent bear activity. Back to the port area here is Radiance of the Seas up close. Compared to the earlier photos you can see how it is cleared up a bit. It's hard to capture detail and sight of the mountains rising up above the ships. You have to see it. Here is Radiance pulling out just before we do. Finally our turn we pulled and started following Radiance to Skagway tomorrow. Here is the sunset at 10:30pm over Juneau as we sail South away.
  13. 9 points
    We had a busy sea day. There was a flurry of activities, all day long. We started with breakfast at the Windjammer and then walked the decks for a bit. It was very windy and cold as one would expect. We went to a lecture about Juneau which was a bit dry. Next up we went to the Cruise Critic meet up. Only 13 people of 27 showed up so most won prizes. I got to meet a fellow RCBlog follower there that I hadn't run into yet so it was fun. They had refreshment available. We ran over to Family Feud after that and it was packed. We had to stand in the back. We grabbed a bit of lunch and popped outside on deck 4 aft and found it to be more pleasant than our morning stroll. It was at that time we had our first whale sighting. They seemed to be surrounding us in the distance. We then went to the RCBlog Welcome Party where we met a few more from our group. The Flowrider was up and running after that so we went and watched a few crazy guys surf in the freezing cold. The Pub Crawl took place a little later. Annette warned the bars ahead of time so the would be prepared for us and I heard one bartender warn the next stop when we were heading out. The evening consisted of watching a movie, eating dinner and watching Finish That Lyric game show. I found that it was hard to see the mo e on the outside screen when it was light out. Tomorrow begins the port fun in Juneau.
  14. 8 points
    I set my alarm for 6am so I could grab a bite before our arrival at the glacier. I found the ship deep within Endicott Arm slowly making our way towards the glacier. It was raining and cold but despite the weather it was breathtaking. Large chucks of ice floating past confirmed we were on the right path. I tried the Peak-a-boo bridge area first but didn't like having the structure of the ship in my shots so I relocated to the helipad. Here I got the first hints at the Dawes glacier. It was raining a good bit and my routine included wiping my lens dry, pointing the camera down to keep the rain off the lens before lifting it quickly to take some photos before repeating the cycle. I had several layers on with my rain coat over them and gloves on. With all that it was quite pleasant. Waterfalls frequently appeared on both sides of the ship. We inched closer crawling slowly up Endicott Arm. The sun was trying to break through. It was just 7:45am so the sun hadn't been able to get very high in the sky or burn off any of the low ceiling hanging above us. From my spot on the bow I could see many small pieces of ice floating all around us. Small is a relative word, they were still pretty big, more than you could stuff into a beer cooler. A senior officer joined us on the helipad and they began setting up a tent with hot chocolate and other drinks for purchase (Bloody Mary's, Mulled wine, etc). I think that is the Staff Captain who began singing 'Auld Lang Syne'. Just kidding, no singing, only an informative talk about the glacier. Where we were at 6am this morning is where the glacier was 100 years ago. Small trees are just beginning to grown in this section. As the glacier retreats eventually moss and other early vegetation begins to grow. After several life cycles of that a soil begins to form which is enough to support bigger vegetation which eventually leads to full sized trees decades after the glacier has receded. Having had that pointed out as we moved closer to the glacier you could see the difference in the vegetation. Contrast this to the first picture in this post where you can see medium sized trees. Finally we were close enough to the glacier where the rain wasn't spoiling the photos as much and you could clearly see the face of the glacier which is several hundred feet high. Most of that is underwater and there is plenty of water below the ship so no worries about hitting anything, it's literally several hundred feet deep.
  15. 8 points
    Day 4 - Skagway Departure All aboard at 8 pm which makes for 12 1/2 hours in port. Not bad. On board the usual activities like rock climbing, mini golf, ping pong and even flowriding was taking place. We pulled out first leaving Radiance to follow us down the inlet towards our respective next ports of call. It was very windy with the narrow inlet acting like a wind tunnel but that didn't stop several of us from enjoying the breath taking scenery. It doesn't look like much in these pictures bit with the scenery slowly moving past and ever changing it's quite an experience you have to experience to understand. From the aft where it was much less windy.
  16. 8 points
    Day 4 - Skagway, continued... Excursion complete and back in time for a beer and Windjammer lunch, we still had over six hours before "back on board" so we walked to town. The National Park Service owns much of this and between them and the town they've done a great job making it very easy and inviting to walk or you can take a $2 (each way) shuttle into town ($5 all day pass). The "A.B." building for the Arctic Brotherhood with something like 9,000 pieces of driftwood on it's face. Time to clear the tracks! The size of this train snow plow should give you the idea of the winter conditions in the area. Skagway is rich in history but much of the population originally lived in tents during the gold rush. The park service later moved some of these buildings from more remote locations into the main 'downtown' area. Walking back to the ship we meet Radiance one again. Finally back to Explorer.
  17. 8 points
    The captain told us to get up early to see whales on our way into Juneau. We were not disappointed. We saw lots of fins and splashes as well as some seals and something that appeared to be an otter, although we couldn't be positive. I had us booked for the Guides Choice Hike to Mendenhall Glacier. We had a large group so they split us into 3 groups so they were small enough to enjoy as there were only 12 of us. We hiked the west side of the glacier. The moss covered forest was beautiful enough but as we climbed we got amazing views of the glacier. Our guide told us many stories and stopped to give us information on flora and the glacier. We were provided with packs that had ponchos, water and granola bars as well as walking sticks. No ponchos were needed. We had some sprinkles of rain but it wasn't a big deal. The weather actually felt perfect. There were restroom facilities at the trailhead. The hike was around 6 miles long and was a bit strenuous at parts. The guide offered to drop us off in town or at the ship. We all took advantage of checking out the shops downtown. There is a shuttle back to the ship but we decided to walk back. It really isn't too far and the weather and scenery were great. I accidentally walked right up to some caribou. They ended up frolicking along side us for a little while. I wasn't expecting that wildlife adventure. We took advantage of being on the ship a little early and grabbed some food at the Windjammer before going out to look for pier runners. It appears the only runner was the dock worker who drove in very quickly and got disapproving looks from ship staff as he got in his forklift to remove the gangways. We went to bed at nearly midnight with a sunset-like glow still in the sky.
  18. 8 points
    Day 3 - Night It's easy to forget when you are on an Alaskan cruise that RCI still does the regular cruise stuff. Walking inside after taking pictures on deck 4 where it is still light outside after 10pm I decided to get a beer in the pub. Suddenly it's The 70's Dance Party Night and I'm out of place in my outdoor multi-layer outfit. Meanwhile this is what I just came from outside on deck 4: Welcome to Alaskan cruising.
  19. 8 points
    You must be an evil bot, too. They always stick up for each other ! 😯😏
  20. 7 points
    Day 4 - Skagway ...continued Our excursion today has two parts, "Gold Rush Dogs" and "Klondike Summit". Looks like our timed departure went to the dogs... (first) Our driver tells us because we are extra special we get an extra unscheduled stop at the Skagway overlook. You can see much more than this but my eyes were drawn to the ships in port. Radiance to left, Explorer to the right. We have a very brief stop here before we re-board the bus and head back into town. Our next stop is "Gold Rush Dogs". Upon arrival they have a gal singing music for us as we wait for our tour to start. The area is set up with several buildings designed to resemble the old town as it may have been in the late 1800's during the gold rush. We watch a short video to introduce us to the concept of sled dog races and a brief history of the Iditarod, a famous Alaskan dog sled race. Here we learned a good deal about long distance dog sled racing including that it's open and equal to both sexes. In fact for many years women have won the race, sometimes for many consecutive races year after year. Our guide at this point is an up and coming dog sled racer who has competed for 17 years in shorter races but is in training for long distance races like the Iditarod at over 1,000 miles. She explains the various features of a typical Iditarod sled and how they provision for the race over various stops. For example, the little black booties hanging in the background are good for 60 - 80 miles before they wear out but with 16 dogs (64 paws) and 1,049 miles it takes over one thousand dog booties to complete the race. They can't carry all those booties, plus food plus supplies so provisions are staged as set by race rules. Our next guide has competed in many long distance races and he continues the education with the sled dogs free to greet us. They appear to be at first glance just like any common pet and they are in fact kept after they retire as part of the family. After speaking and educating us more, it was time for a demonstration. Normally these dogs run in an ideal temperature of around -10° so their summer conditioning runs are kept short, it is after all nearly 60° today. Harnessed to a sled the dogs are eager to get to work. You can tell they love this. Off they go like a drag racing car pulling away in a race. They explain that much of dog sled racing is understanding the dogs. The mix of males and females, how certain dogs interact, some who want to play with each other while racing, some who like to fight, some who are lead dogs and some who just want to follow. The art of dog sled racing is very much about knowing your team and managing dog drama as it plays out one race to the next. Finally it was time for the promised highlight - puppies! Five puppies were available for everyone to hold. With our overdose of cuteness complete, it was time for this portion of the excursion to continue. I have a much better understanding now of the background of what was once the primary mode of transportation in Alaska. I very much enjoyed this stop at "Gold Rush Dogs".
  21. 7 points
    Day 4 - Skagway I'm going to break today down into a couple of post to keep it manageable. We start the day deep in a fjord with mountains on both sides. It's almost 6:30am and I start making my way up to the Peak-a-boo bridge to see where we are. It's been daylight outside for a few hours now. The solarium as I pass through it going forward. With a number of Caribbean cruises in the past it always strikes me when I see the ship so close to land and mountains. So very different from sailing in the open ocean - in a good way. There are occasional waterfalls such as this one on both sides. I think I mentioned previously we would be following Radiance of the Seas from Juneau to Skagway. Upon reaching the forward looking Peak-a-boo bridge sure enough there was Radiance right where she should be. She's beginning her turn into Skagway since we've reached the end of this inlet. We will be moored right beside Radiance which is likely why we followed her up here - so she could take the first position while we turn, back in and take up the pier immediately behind her. The town of Skagway is laid out before us. With Explorer tied up at the pier, we are now facing back in the direction we came with fantastic views of the mountains around us.
  22. 7 points
    We don't have Netflix but will be signing up for a free trial when it comes out, as we may be in the movie! We were in three scenes, so we have three chances of making it in! LOL Actually, two are the same scene, but we had changed our clothes for filming of the next scene and were waiting so they stuck us in the background. So my husband and I can be in the same scene two times; once in our shorts and once in our evening wear! LOL There were others on the group cruise that filmed background scenes too; I can't wait to see who actually makes the final cut!!!
  23. 7 points
    Day 2 - cruising and Hubbard Glacier We slept great! Woke up early and had a latte from Cafe Latte-itudes before the 4 of us headed to the Windjammer for breakfast. Food was pretty good and then we headed back to the balcony to satisfy my need to see some birds. Saw some Surf Scoters and Tufted Puffins.... For lunch we went back to the Windjammer and then went to the front of the boat on Deck 12 to check out Hubbard Glacier. The captain does a great of explaining the glacier and the history of the area. Knowing that we would eventually see it again from our balcony we went back to our cabin and got some great views. The pictures just don't do it justice! As we started to pull out we got to watch a playful sea lion and got a so-so picture. Also caught a waterfall as we pulled away..... Captain said the trip up 2 days ago had a lot of fog so didn't have nearly as good a view as we had today.
  24. 7 points
    Day 1 - Seattle In the "things that make you go hmmm..." department, I noted the hotel ironing board was behind the cross bar to hang clothes on. You can't stand in front of it pass it under the bar (it hits your feet). It can't go over the bar (it hits the ceiling). Hmmm. Finally it's time to head down to the shuttle arranged by MEI Travel for the Group Cruise. On my way down the hotel hallway I passed a room and saw some luggage in the hallway with ship tags on them. Mind you this is the hotel before the cruise. I hope those people didn't leave thinking that just like on the last night aboard you put your luggage out in the hall and it is magically collected for you.
  25. 7 points
    Cozumel pics...